FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR
How Firm A Foundation
How firm a foundation,
ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith
in His excellent Word!
What more can He say
than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus
for refuge have fled?
In every condition,
in sickness, in health;
In poverty's vale,
or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad,
on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand,
shall My strength ever be.
"Fear not, I am with thee,
O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God
and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee,
help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by my righteous,
Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap!
The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?
Food For Thought!
Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. – Anne Lamott
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. – C.S. Lewis
I think it is a sweet thing, that Christ says of my cross, Half mine, and that he divides these sufferings with me and takes the largest share to himself; no, that I, and my whole cross, are wholly Christ’s. – Samuel Rutherford
Confession of Sin:
The Law of God: Exodus 20:1-2, 13
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. . . . You shall not murder.
Prayer of Confession
Father in heaven, the author of life, we confess the breakdown and disintegration of life flows from our hearts. We confess we seek after our own flourishing far more than we seek after the flourishing of others. We confess we look down on others and disparage them as your image bearers. We confess we use our words – spoken and unspoken – to tear others down rather than to build them up. Father please forgive us for our murderous sin against you and our neighbor in thought, word, and deed. We thank you that in Christ there is full and free pardon for all our sin; that though all things in us call for our rejection, all things in Christ plead our acceptance. For it is in the strong name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
Words of Grace
[Jesus] committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
1 Peter 2:22-24
Confession of Faith: Westminster Shorter Catechism (1646)
Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
Q. 21. Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?
A. The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continues to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as hechose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us inthe Beloved.
1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
Sermon Text: Daniel 3:1-30
1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, youare to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
1. We need to understand the character of idols (v. 1-7)
2. We need to serve God for his own sake (v. 8-18)
3. We need to look for the man in the fire (v. 19-30)
We are half way through the first week of a new year. How are you doing? This past Sunday we looked at Daniel 3 to consider what it means to live by faith in Jesus no matter what the future holds.
In Daniel chapter 3, Daniel's three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego courageously defy the order of King Nebuchadnezzar to bow down to his golden image rather than dishonor their God.
The story begins with a description of King Nebuchadnezzar's golden image and its purpose. As I think is fairly obvious King Nebuchadnezzar is seeking peace and unity in his realm. Something that will unify all the "the peoples, nations, and languages" of Babylon (v. 7). Babylon, like ours, was a pluralistic culture made up of all different kinds of people from different cultures, countries and religions.
How did the three friends navigate the circumstances they were in?
First, they understood the character of idols thereby enabling them to push back on the decree to bow to any other god but the God of Israel. They saw in the golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar three things. It was larger than life at 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide (v. 1). The effect was to intimidate in order to show that no god was as powerful as Babylon. Second, King Nebuchadnezzar's image became a gathering point around which life orbited. It was intended to be the controlling center of life (v. 1, 7). And therefore, it demanded absolute loyalty (v. 6). There was no grace. There was only tyranny! The three friends saw in this image a bid to take the place of their God in their lives no matter how tolerant King Nebuchadnezzar's plan sounded.
Whether cultural currents in our day or the inner desires and longings of your own heart, how do you hear the call to add to or forsake the God of the Bible in your own life? What should you do? What does it look like to respond in faith?
The three friends show us in their response. In verse 16-18 they respond, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Notice two key ingredients to biblical faith in their response. First, faith has confidence in the power of God to deliver (v. 17). Second, faith willingly submits to God's will, whatever the future holds (v. 18). Where did the three friends get this kind of faith? It certainly didn't come from their circumstances or their resolve. It came from God's promises that he would never leave or forsake his people and that he was building a kingdom that would never end (Psalm 103:17-19).
What is your reaction to verse 17-18. Verse 17 is truly awesome! It's bold and courageous! But what about verse 18? How does that fit into living by faith? But if not...! What if God doesn't rescue us from the fiery furnace? Here is the key to living by faith and also the test of our own faith. The three friends' faith was not in their deliverance but in their God.
There is a great principle of living by faith that emerges from both verse 17 and 18. In the words of C.H. Spurgeon, "Your duty is to do the right: consequences are with God...It is yours and mine to do the right though heaven fall, and follow the command of Christ whatever the consequences may be."
Why is this kind of faith necessary for living by faith? Because it is the only kind of faith that finds the man in the furnace. By trusting God no matter what the outcome, the three friends discover the radical and unexpected power of their God! As those listening in on this story we too discover the unique salvation of God that reaches into the worst, most unthinkable suffering and hardship. Living by faith doesn't mean looking for God to deliver us from the fiery furnace but in the midst of the fiery furnace.
How does he do this? He get's personally involved (v. 25). In this story the fourth man in the fiery furnace is described as a son of the gods (v. 25) and an angel from God (v. 28). Suffice it to say, the word angel means messenger. The veiled figure enters into the most terrifying, hopeless situation imaginable and completely delivers three friends from the fiery furnace (v. 27).
How can you have confidence that God will be with you in the midst of the fire?
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
Because faith unites us to THE man in the fire, the Lord Jesus Christ who endured THE "fiery furnace" - the cross - so that we might find in him our refuge and our strength no matter what the future holds. As he goes, so we go. Our future is bound up with his future!
Jesus understands what it means to live by faith. On the night he was betrayed he prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mk. 14:36) In other words, he came to live by faith for you knowing you can't do it on your own!
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son... (1 John 4:10)
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, to bear the dreadful curse for my soul.
Therefore, living by faith no matter what the future holds, is about discovering in the Gospel what the Psalmist says in Psalm 63:3.
Your love is better than life!
- What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
- What questions does this passage raise for you?
- Was there anything that bothered you?
- How does the the response of the three friends in vs. 16-18 challenge and/or deepen your understanding of what it means to live by faith?
- What comfort you find in the way God rescues the three friends?
- How do see Jesus and the gospel pictured and anticipated in this story?
Suggested Resources & The Week Ahead
Sunday evening I mentioned I have been meeting with smaller groups of folks at Red Mountain Church to read through a book or discuss the Bible. I want to take this opportunity to invite anyone who is interested to join us. You are welcome to come to an existing group or help create a new one.
Currently I am meeting with two different groups of men over lunch to read through Crazy Busy and one group of women to read through the book of Exodus and discuss it. If you are interested in either of those opportunities or have an idea for something entirely different, please let me know. I would love to talk with you about it.
Songs for this week:
O For A Thousand Tongues
Depth Of Mercy
Jesus Lover Of My Soul
My Jesus Has Done All Things Well
Until next time,
How Firm A Foundation
"When through the deep waters
I call thee to go,
The rivers of grief
shall not thee overflow
For I will be with thee,
thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee
thy deepest distress."
"When through fiery trials
thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient,
shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee;
I only design
Thy dross to consume,
and thy gold to refine."
"The soul that on Jesus
hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not
desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell
should endeavor to break,
I'll never, no never,
no never forsake."